Rural Alternative Schools (ERA) | Cali, Colombia

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Rural Alternative Schools are collaborative platforms that can be adapted to the unique context and needs of the communities involved. Thanks to this adaptability, PASO Colombia established its first urban-based Rural Alternative School in Cali. It opens with 26 participants that belong to SERVIAMPAZ, a cooperative of ex-combatants who migrated from rural reincorporation zones to the city to continue their reincorporation process.

The Peace Agreement proposed that the reincorporation process should take place mainly in rural areas, but due to insecurity and difficulties for implementing the Peace Agreement, many ex-combatants moved to urban areas of the country. A total of 229 ex-combatants have arrived in Cali, seeking to develop projects that would guarantee their economic stability and social reincorporation.

The original intention, to establish an ERA on an urban lot with a strong agricultural approach, faced multiple troubles in finding land with the characteristics required. To solve this problem, PASO Colombia designed an "Urban Peace" strategy, based on a business association that provides agroecological and commercial services in the city.

Ex-combatants grouped in SERVIAMPAZ were guided to establish themselves as a cooperative and, under this collective organization, to participate in the ERA of Cali. Through this approach, entrepreneurial networks are promoted using agricultural products generated by productive projects from the Pacific Coast and the rural zone of Valle del Cauca, value chains are developed, and marketing routes are established in the city.

At the same time, PASO Colombia has encouraged the training of participants in the maintenance of green areas, a service that is added to the current marketing of dried fruits and honey. The manufacture and sale of bio-protection items like masks is also being implemented to aid in reducing the spread of COVID-19. 

PASO Colombia is partnering in the implementation of this new ERA with the Cali Chamber of Commerce, the National Training Service (SENA), the Agency for Reincorporation and Normalization (ARN) and the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.